Health Care Reform

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Medical Groups Issue Amicus Brief in Support of Contraception Access

“Decisions concerning contraceptive use, like all health care decisions, should be made by patients in consultation with their health care professionals.”

New York, NY— The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Physicians for Reproductive Health (Physicians), the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Nurses Association, along with other medical groups, have filed an amicus brief before the United States Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell. In March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether the accommodation offered to religiously affiliated organizations by the Affordable Care Act violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The amicus brief explains that contraception is essential to women’s health and well-being, a critical component of preventive care, and integral to the health of families.

Background: In implementing the contraceptive benefit, the Obama Administration accommodated certain employers with religious objections to birth control by allowing them to opt out of covering it for their employees, provided that they fill out a form notifying their insurer, or the government, of the employer’s objection. If the employer provides such notice, the insurer would then provide coverage to the employee at no cost to the employer. Despite this, several employers have sued the Administration, alleging that the accommodation violates RFRA. Now, the Supreme Court will review seven of these challenges as part of Zubik v. Burwell.

Excerpt of amicus brief: The contraception coverage requirement recognizes that women of childbearing age have unique health needs and that contraception counseling and services are essential components of women’s preventive health care. Decisions concerning contraceptive use, like all health care decisions, should be made by patients in consultation with their health care professionals based on the best interests of the patient. This is best accomplished when contraceptive coverage is provided within the same overall framework as a woman’s other health care services in consultation with a woman’s chosen provider. The accommodation accomplishes this, while at the same time respecting an employer’s sincerely held religious objections to contraception….

Under the accommodation, prescription contraceptives are covered seamlessly and automatically as part of a woman’s health insurance package. If access to appropriate, cost-free contraception is removed from women’s routine health care services or is made more difficult to obtain, the likely result is that many women will simply not use contraception or will use an imperfect form of contraception inconsistently or improperly, with a concomitant increase in unintended pregnancies with all their consequences.  

The amicus brief can be read and downloaded here: http://bit.ly/1Q3nBux

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 23.

 PHYSICIANS AND NURSES AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT 

Supreme Court Will Hear Challenges to ACA Contraception Coverage

Dr. Nancy StanwoodThe Affordable Care Act has proven critical in improving women’s health, and in particular the provision that requires insurance companies cover birth control without a copay. Responding to the news that the Supreme Court of the United States would grant the challenges to the Affordable Care Act, in which plaintiffs are seeking an exemption from covering contraception for employees as mandated, our board chair Dr. Nancy Stanwood responded:

“The Affordable Care Act did the right thing for public health and women’s health by ensuring that everyone who needs birth control can get the method that is right for them, without co-pays. If the plaintiffs succeed in their case, countless people will lose this benefit and face costly barriers to accessing affordable contraception….One person’s beliefs should not dictate the health care that another receives.”

Read her entire statement here

Doctors React to Supreme Court Accepting Challenge to Contraceptive Coverage

Concerned that ruling in favor of plaintiffs could deal devastating blow to women’s access to contraception

New York, NY— Today the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it would grant all seven of the challenges to the Affordable Care Act, in which plaintiffs are seeking an exemption from covering contraception for employees as mandated.

In response, Physicians for Reproductive Health board chair Nancy L. Stanwood, MD, MPH said:

“The Affordable Care Act did the right thing for public health and women’s health by ensuring that everyone who needs birth control can get the method that is right for them, without co-pays. If the plaintiffs succeed in their case, countless people will lose this benefit and face costly barriers to accessing affordable contraception. Birth control is a critical component of preventive care.

“And affordability is key to ensuring that people are able to use it and have control over their reproductive lives. We know that when co-pays are removed, women are able to choose a method based on their medical needs, and not on cost alone. Removing co-pays for all methods assures that patients can choose whatever method they need, including long-acting reversible methods, such as the IUD or the implant, that are highly effective but often come with high upfront costs.

“The plaintiffs are seeking to privilege their religious beliefs over the beliefs and health of others. In a modern democracy, this is simply unacceptable. One person’s beliefs should not dictate the health care that another receives. We hope the court uses good sense and finds in favor of good health and good medicine for all.”  

PHYSICIANS AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT

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After 39 Years, Let’s Make Hyde History

September 30 marked the 39th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which denies women coverage for abortion if they receive insurance through the government, with limited exceptions. This impacts not only those who have Medicaid insurance, but also those who are insured through the Indian Health Service, serve in the military or the Peace Corps, or hold federal government jobs.

As physicians, we believe a woman’s health insurance should cover all of her health care needs, no matter what coverage she has or what income she makes. We want her to be able to make the best possible decisions or herself and her family. Currently, the Hyde Amendment creates unjust barriers for those struggling to get by and interferes with their ability to determine the best health care option for themselves and their families. This arcane legislation also creates a patchwork of abortion access across the country, as Dr. Lin Wang points out, because only 17 states offer abortion coverage through state-sponsored Medicaid. In 2015 in the United States, abortion access should not be dictated by zip code.

“There are certain patients whose stories stay with me,” says our Reproductive Health Advocacy Fellow Dr. Pratima Gupta. “I think of the mother with two children under four, who was also putting herself through school and working full time. She was sacrificing so much to build a happy future for her family–and when she found herself unexpectedly pregnant, she knew a third child would make that future tenuous; the cost of childcare alone would have been financially impossible for her.

“I also think about the woman who was living in her car with her boyfriend when she came to my office. Or the one who could barely make it to her appointment because she had to borrow her friend’s unreliable car, as she lacked one of her own, and lived in a very rural part of the county.

“It’s outrageous that politicians would presume that someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, who would struggle to collect funds for an abortion, would somehow be able to financially and emotionally support a child. The truth is that none of us, including the legislators that continue to uphold the Hyde Amendment, knows what a woman is going through in this situation. However, when Medicaid covers prenatal care but denies coverage for abortion, that takes away a woman’s ability to make important, personal decisions based on what is best for her individual circumstances.”

Because Physicians opposes abortion coverage restrictions of any kind, we have added our name to the groundswell of voices who support All Above All’s mission to “make Hyde history.”

Watch Dr. Gupta’s call to action in the video above, and watch the All Above All video here.